The Valletta foodbank is bracing itself for a tough summer as donations cannot keep up with demand, and it has also branched outside of the capital to be more accessible to people in need.
As the demand for food continues to increase, the foodbank this week opened three distribution centres in Paola, St Paul’s Bay and Birkirkara, and is planning on opening another one in Gozo next month.
When the bank first opened in 2015, it distributed 240 packs of food. It is now feeding 100 families per week with numbers still on the increase, administrator Reverend Kim Hurst told the Times of Malta.
By the beginning of the week, 27 families had already signed up with the Paola centre alone.
Run by the St Andrew’s Scots Church, the bank provides food for a few weeks to those facing a crisis, including people who are suddenly made redundant and others who have their benefits halted when admitted to hospital.
The foodbank will remain centrally administered from the capital and beneficiaries will still have to go there first in order to ensure they have all documentation in order. They can then pick up food packs from their nearest centre after informing the administrators.
2,150 packs distributed by the foodbank in eight months
In Paola, the bank is working alongside the parish church, after the parish priest offered premises for the distribution of the food packs.
The foodbank meanwhile has common clients with Dar Papa Franġisku in Birkirkara, which runs a shelter and a soup kitchen, so it has also started operating from there.
It initially struggled to find premises in the St Paul’s Bay Area until the British Residents’ Association, with the support of the landlord, allowed the bank to use its premises.
The number of people depending on the food handouts continues to increase, with data showing that 2,150 packs were distributed by the foodbank between January and August of 2018 – more food than the bank had distributed throughout all of 2017.
The bulk of the food distributed last year was collected through the 2017 Reverse Advent Calendar campaign.
While this year the foodbank had a “wonderful response” to the calendar campaign and its stockrooms were full to capacity, supplies are running out.
“With so many mouths to feed, the stock goes down quickly and we are now having to purchase about €500 worth of food a week out of our reserve funds just to keep going.” This was worrying as the amount of food donations was nowhere near enough to cover the demand on the services, Rev Hurst added.
“The bank always gets a few extra donations around Lent and Easter but we are worried that the number of donations will continue to decline and we are indeed bracing ourselves for a tough summer.”